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Essay
This page contains a fan fiction written by Forestpaw13.
This page contains the opinions of the original author(s), and is not patrolled for factual accuracy.
Remember that this story is non-canon. It may contain false characters, plots, or locations.
Responses, comments & other feedback should be made on the comments section below.


Standards Series
Preceded by:
Healing
Breaking the Rules Succeded by:
Fighting for Freedom

Prologue

Amberfire curled up in her nest and sighed as she looked out of the den. Freestep was there, with Mouseclaw beside him. He seemed to be staring straight forward, but Amberfire knew what clouded his gaze: darkness.
She loved that he was blind. It added to his bravery and strength, and it made is eyes seem to shine in the most intense moments.
Amberfire had admitted it to herself a long time ago: she loved Freestep. She loved the way that he looked at her, or seemed to.
But she knew his mind was wrapped around other things, like the stupid apprentice Smokepaw and what had happened a moon ago. It had surprised her, too, but that just made her fall for him more.
She had only been an apprentice when he had been born, and appointed a warrior only a moon later. So she was still young, but not appealing to Freestep. Not anymore.
The way he sat now made Amberfire find him so much better. He was a warrior, finally. Mature enough to face the world, but young enough to search for a partner, a cat who would support him no matter what he did.
But there's no hope in me, she reminded herself.
Brackenheart slipped in. Amberfire had noticed him talking with Reedstar moments ago, but had forgotten as she was thinking about Freestep.
"Dawn patrol to you tomorrow," Brackenheart muttered in a low voice. "You, Thorntail, and Freestep."
Amberfire's heart skipped a beat as Freestep's name was spoken. I'll get to see what he's thinking!
"Get some sleep," Brackenheart murmured. "We need every cat on their feet tomorrow, with ShadowClan's latest trouble."
Amberfire nodded and drifted asleep.


Fang knew his army had seen him like he had been a moon before. But this, he knew, was stretching it.
He had never directly approached a cat. He had never announced anything in front of a group. He had never appeared with his army, he had never let them show themselves. He was mysterious, always showing just a head or gleaming eyes, and always at night.
And never before had he announced his army.
He only had the army to feel in charge of somebody. He needed company, as well, for his frequent long journeys that he took. He enjoyed taking care of kits, but they had to grow somehow, and journeys weren't the way to take care of them.
He had journeyed as a kit far away from the Clans, where he had been born. He changed his name to Fang and began to make friends, no, allies, in an attempt to stay alive and well.
And he had grown strong, for he was often left alone to fend for himself. He became a threat, and eventually rose to form the Lake Army, or for short, the Army.
They could protect any cat from harm, as long as there weren't numbers. All of them were extremely well-trained, fit, and smart. All of them had destinies, Fang knew, but he hoped it was not to overthrow him.
Now, he was sitting in a forest, close to where the hero Rushclaw was now, thinking. He was alone. He had left his army at a small pool and journeyed back here to gather his thoughts.
He sensed cats coming, but they weren't close. They weren't far, but they were not a danger to him. They had a scent similar to the hero Rushclaw.
There are numbers! Fang realized with a start. He leaped up and began to walk down the imaginary line.
He saw three cats ahead, and realized he was walking towards them. He spun around and ran away.
Wild thoughts were running through his mind. He leaped over a small river, new scents engulfing him, but he ignored that.
He skidded to a stop at a large lake and looked wildly from one side to another. He ran along the edge until he reached a river.
He recognized this place now. He ran up the river, to ridges that felt weird underneath his paws.
He slowed to a walk as he approached a familiar scent- his army, waiting for him.
"We leave tomorrow," Fang told them loudly. "At sunhigh."

Chapter 1

"You can be finished," Freestep heard Brackenheart tell Mouseclaw.
He yawned and stretched. I'm ready to sleep!
"Freestep, you're on the dawn patrol," Brackenheart added. "Mouseclaw, you'll be on the sunhigh hunting patrol."
Freestep wanted to just lay down and sleep where he was standing. The night of silence had been boring. I bet no cat ever attacks during a warrior vigil!
Brackenheart had not missed Freestep's earlier yawn. "You can lead it," he added. "Go fast but check everything and you can sleep."
Freestep nodded happily and bounded to the entrance, where Thorntail and Amberfire were waiting.
"Freestep," Thorntail greeted his old apprentice happily.
"Hi," Freestep yawned. "Brackenheart said I'm leading today."
Amberfire nodded, happiness coming from her. "Let's see what the new warrior can do," she purred.
Freestep didn't let himself wonder why Amberfire was acting like she was, but he beckoned to her and Thorntail to follow him.
Outside the camp, Freestep smelled a fresh breeze and basked in the morning warmth. He could tell that greenleaf was approaching- it was getting warmer and warmer.
"Lead the way, leader," Thorntail encouraged as Freestep hesitated.
Freestep made a quick decision and led the way towards the ShadowClan border. He sensed Thorntail's approval and felt him nod behind him, and his pace picked up slightly.
ShadowClan's recent trouble still worried Freestep. Only a moon ago had they attacked the camp to regain a powerful cat and Freestep's friend, Jaggedpaw. But the fight had been interrupted by something far more powerful and worrying: the declaration of Freestep's future.
Recalling a conversation he had with the medicine cat, Ravenheart, he remembered that he was in fact destined to be leader, if a certain cat didn't kill him first. Freestep knew exactly who it was.
Smokepaw was a moon older than Freestep, but much more dangerous. He had an eye for trouble and tended to cause it more often.
Freestep knew the fight was coming soon, but when? When both cats could become deputy? How far into the future would that day be?
"Freestep," Amberfire warned, jerking Freestep out of his thoughts, "I know you're tired, but don't slow the rest of us down."
Freestep shook himself and sped up to a near run.
A race, he thought. A race for what?
They reached the ShadowClan border- recently marked, by the smell of it. Freestep was sure that he could smell a cat or two in the distance, but it wasn't close enough to be a threat at the moment. If Thorntail or Amberfire raised an alarm, then he would worry.
Freestep had Amberfire mark the border by a tree and continued along the line with Thorntail.
Thorntail instantly muttered in a low voice, "You're so powerful, and you're leading a patrol. Reedstar has you-"
"It's not Reedstar," Freestep interrupted. "And I'm working on finding out exactly what I'm supposed to do. Don't worry," he soothed.
Thorntail's anxiety didn't fade. He had been hiding it so well, Freestep thought. Every cat had at least some stress trailing them all the time, and Thorntail usually had the most, besides Ravenheart and Reedstar.
Now it was almost overwhelming.
"I'll be fine," Freestep soothed as Amberfire approached. "All I want to do is sleep right now, believe me."
He led his patrol on, his spirits dampened.


As Freestep entered the camp again, he nodded to Brackenheart, telling him that there was no problem.
He started towards the apprentices den, which looked warm and inviting. It was where his nest was, too.
"You're in the warriors den," a voice purred. Ravenheart.
"Yeah," Freestep mewed sheepishly. He crept off to the warrior's den, feeling no pride that he was to sleep there now.
He found an empty nest and curled up, feeling none of the comfort that his old one brought. But he slept anyway.

Chapter 2

"Wake up!"
"Mouseclaw..." Freestep groaned. "No, I'm tired and you know it."
This was reminding Freestep very strongly of a time when he had been a kit.
Mouseclaw prodded him with a claw. "There's an apprentice ceremony, for kits named Dapplekit and Blazekit. Maybe you'll get one."
No I won't! Freestep protested in his head. But he stood up obediently, shook his pelt of any moss, and followed his sister out to the clearing.
He sensed Reedstar on the Highledge, and cats gathered beneath him like bees to honey. He sat down beside Ravenheart and studied the two kits.
He couldn't see them, but the she-kit, he smelled, was running around the tom. The she-kit is Dapplekit, he reminded himself. And the tom Blazekit. If you want one, know their names!
"Quiet down, everyone," Reedstar called. The chatter of the few cats that were conversing died down, and all cats focused on Reedstar.
"These two kits have reached their sixth moon," Reedstar began warmly, looking at the two kits. "They are ready to become apprentices."
The cats stirred around Freestep like a wave of emotion, the apprentice's excitement was almost overwhelming.
"Blazekit, Dapplekit, until you become warriors, you'll be known as Blazepaw and Dapplepaw. Blazepaw, your mentor will be Amberfire."
Amberfire padded forward happily and touched noses with Blazepaw.
"This next cat is ready to receive an apprentice, despite obvious disabilities. I believe he is capable, and Dapplepaw is lucky." Reedstar's emotions of pride and worry nearly overwhelmed Freestep, until he mewed, "Freestep is Dapplepaw's mentor."
"No!" Freestep heard Smokepaw yowl angrily. "A blind cat, mentor? It's a wonder he's a warrior!"
"Be quiet, Smokepaw," Reedstar hissed. "Dapplepaw?" he prompted.
Dapplepaw ran to Freestep and jammed her nose on his.
My second full day as a warrior and I already have an apprentice! Freestep's head swirled, but he didn't dare say anything out loud to ruin his good fortune.
"Can we explore the territory?" Dapplepaw asked excitedly.
"Freestep!" Brackenheart called suddenly.
"Wait here," Freestep told Dapplepaw, not bothering to see if she really would. He padded to Brackenheart. "Yes?"
"You're on sunhigh border patrol. Last night's sunset patrol found a WindClan scent over the border. I want to moniter that."
"Can I bring Dapplepaw?" Freestep asked hopefully.
Brackenheart nodded doubtfully, but Freestep took it as a yes and ran back to his apprentice.
"We're going on patrol," Freestep informed the hopeful she-cat. "Go and make your nest in the apprentices' den, then come back and it'll be time to leave."
Dapplepaw nodded eagerly, and ran off.
Amberfire came to Freestep next. "I can't believe we're mentors!" she purred. Freestep could sense the excitement beneath her fur and another emotion, which highly disturbed him. He didn't bother probing."
"Yes," Freestep purred back, putting on a happy face. "I can't believe it, either."
Amberfire bobbed her head happily, and by then Dapplepaw was racing back.
"That was fast," Freestep told her.
"Let's go!" Dapplepaw chanted. "Let's go, let's go!"
Freestep felt Smokepaw's stare bore into him as he padded towards the entrance of the camp.


Freestep's patrol consisted of himself, Dapplepaw, Brambletail, and Brackenheart himself.
"Come on," Dapplepaw whined again. "You guys are too slow! I want to explore!"
"Dapplepaw," Freestep hissed, exasperated, "I know you're excited, but we're on important business now. I'll show you the territory tomorrow."
That seemed to calm the noisy apprentice down.
"Stop," Brackenheart hissed suddenly. "Listen."
Freestep stopped and listened, unconsciously hoping that Dapplepaw didn't make a sound.
"It's Fang and his army," Brambletail breathed in Freestep's ear.
Freestep relaxed, then thought of too many questions.
"I need to talk to him," Freestep mumbled. He stood up straight, not aware he had been crouching, and jumped over the undergrowth he'd been hiding in.
Brackenheart's stare burned into his fur, but Freestep didn't dare turn back, not when the younger army cats were watching.
"Fang," Freestep called hopefully.
"Here," the tom grunted, revealing himself among the clamor of cats that was his army.
"I have stuff to ask you," Freestep mewed quietly, aware that his Clanmates were straining to hear. But he didn't want them to.
"Well," Fang announced loudly. "It seems as if Rushclaw doesn't know his own destiny?"
That did it for the secrecy. "Freestep," Freestep hissed, exasperated. "And I do know my own destiny, I just don't want to say it here..."
Fang nodded, understanding. "Well, then, Clan kitty, you can't ask questions unless the Army knows, too. They were there for the declaration, you know."
Freestep hadn't forgotten. "I know," he protested, beckoning for his father's patrol to continue, "and I'm not shy. It's just my Clan... they have more important things to worry about..."
"Lies," Fang hissed.
The patrol left, leaving Freestep relieved.
"Okay, my destiny is to become leader of my Clan, ThunderClan, if some cat doesn't kill me first."
Fang's eyes widened. "No?" he breathed. "Do you know anything else?"
"I know that the cat trying to kill me was an apprentice with me," Freestep told him.
A smirk. "Well, you have to kill him."
"I know," Freestep told him. "It's just... you knew about me. But why is everyone calling me the hero Rushclaw? I know what he did, I've heard the tale many times, but why am I him?"
"The hero Rushclaw," Fang began, "went for Rebirth after his death."
"How?" Freestep breathed.
"I dunno," Fang mumbled, shrugging his broad shoulders. "Find out yourself. But a special, undisclosed source told me all about you. I'm not supposed to utter his name, or he'll hunt me down and kill me himself, he said."
"So you're running away," Freestep mewed flatly. "Figures."
"No, we are rogues, but we form an army in which I lead," Fang described. "Almost like a Clan of yours," he added. "I have no idea what would happen if I died..."
"Appoint a deputy," Freestep suggested boldly. "Somebody who could lead if you die or retire."
"And our cats are growing old..." Fang's gaze was felt searching Freestep.
"Settle down," Freestep suggested mildly. "Create a home where you can survive, one that you can protect and hunt in."
Fang nodded.
Freestep heard the patrol approaching.
"No trouble on the WindClan border," Brambletail declared loudly.
Freestep nodded at Fang. "Thank you," he mewed quietly.
"C'mon, Freestep! We've got a report to make," Dapplepaw mewed.
Fang nodded at Freestep and turned away.
Freestep was forced to follow the patrol along, therefore engulfing him in his troubles once more.

Chapter 3

Freestep felt a claw prod him and he moaned.
"Get up and face the day," he heard Mouseclaw tell him. "You've got an excited apprentice waking everyone up and a leader that needs to speak to you."
Freestep opened his eyes- just for the effect, it didn't change anything for him- and directed them towards his sister.
"Any patrols today?" he asked mildly.
Mouseclaw shook her head. "I don't think so, not for you. I have to do sunset patrol to the WindClan border. With Smokepaw," she added with a shiver.
"I thought you liked him?"
"I guess, but... he's an apprentice."
"He's older than you."
Mouseclaw sighed and prodded Freestep again. "Just hurry up, I can see Dapplepaw terrorizing Webkit and Rainkit."
Freestep snorted but stood.
"C'mon!" Mouseclaw beckoned to him and led Freestep towards Willowpaw.
As he approached, Freestep heard Dapplepaw say, "You'll be apprentices soon, but there's no chance that you'll get Freestep like I did. He's the hero Rushclaw reborn!"
"Just like a kit," Freestep muttered.
Mouseclaw purred at him and padded away, leaving Freestep feeling alone and vulnerable.
"Hey, mentor."
Freestep ignored Smokepaw and padded away.
"Freestep!" Reedstar called. "I need to talk to you."
Freestep bounded over to his leader, hoping that this wasn't a command about a patrol, or blindness...
"You know why I chose you as Dapplepaw's mentor?" Reedstar asked in a low voice.
"No."
With a sigh, Reedstar mewed, "Thorntail had a sister named Dapplepaw. She was blind, and she caught greencough when it swept through the camp like wildfire. The leader, Volestar, caught it late, just as all the cats were getting better."
Freestep nodded, wondering where this was going.
"Dapplepaw died," Reedstar informed Freestep bluntly. "When Dapplepaw- as you know her- was born, Thorntail told me that he wanted somebody who would take care of her, despite her having no relations. He was worried about her, because she took the same name as his deceased sister."
Freestep shivered at the word deceased.
"He also said that, if you were ready, that he would like you to mentor her. Out of respect, I made you a mentor."
Freestep's heart glowed.
"Thorntail will be watching you, and probably for the better. If you need any guidance, ask him."
Brackenheart was calling Reedstar's name, so he nodded at Freestep and padded away.
Freestep's mind whirled. He had seen Dapplepaw die himself, and Thorntail still felt protective of her.
"Great relationship," Freestep muttered.
To Dapplepaw, he called, "Training! Come on!"


"You're doing it wrong!" Freestep hissed, exasperated. Dapplepaw hadn't learned a thing since they had begun the session.
"I'm sorry!" Dapplepaw protested. "I don't know how you know! I'm doing the best I can!"
Freestep did his best not to lash his tail, but said calmly, "I know because I've been trained."
Dapplepaw straightened up, excitement coming from her.
"Dapplepaw..." Freestep muttered.
"Can I please just try to catch a mouse? You've made me do this, and it's exhausting, and there's no point," Dapplepaw complained.
"Fine," Freestep mumbled, willing her to leave so he could be alone. "Be back by sunhigh," he added, wanting to have some control of the wild she-cat.
Dapplepaw nodded, looked around, and set off for the ShadowClan border.
Freestep sighed in relief as the area around him settled into silence.
Yellowfang's voice whispered suddenly, "Keep an eye on your apprentice, Freestep..."
Freestep sighed, "Why?"
"The warrior code must be preserved..."
Freestep hissed in exasperation and padded after Dapplepaw.
He could hear her voice as he approached, and then another, stranger one.
"So... you're in ThunderClan, and I'm in ShadowClan..." the voice murmured, sounding strangely like Amberfire when she talked with Freestep. "How are we going to make this work?"
Freestep's vision opened and he saw a tortiseshell she-cat sitting with a dark gray tom with sparkling green eyes.
"I don't know..." the tortiseshell sighed, and Freestep realized that she was Dapplepaw.
"Well, we have to figure something out." The ShadowClan tom's tail snaked out to touch Dapplepaw's back.
Freestep shivered, then looked around to see Yellowfang next to him.
"You've got to stop this," Yellowfang whispered.
Dapplepaw rested her head on the ShadowClan tom's shoulder. "I really like you, you know that, but... I'm loyal to my Clan."
"Be loyal to ShadowClan," the ShadowClan tom pleaded. "It would make all this a lot easier."
Dapplepaw's thoughts came to Freestep in a rush. I love him so, but I admire Freestep.
Freestep felt his heart warm before he heard the next thought. But I want a mentor that can see!
"Cedarpaw!" a voice suddenly called, deep in ShadowClan territory.
Dapplepaw instantly jumped across the border, making her fur bristle and baring her teeth. Cedarpaw- was that his name?- made a cut on himself, the side pressed against Dapplepaw.
Both cats hissed at each other, and stopped when a cat emerged from the undergrowth- Weedfur.
"We've got training to do," Weedfur mewed gruffly. "Ignore them, they're a brand-new apprentice, can't you tell?"
Dapplepaw hissed at him, but Cedarpaw stood, shook off his fur, and padded off.
Freestep almost pushed his way to his apprentice, but Weedfur padded away after a long look at Dapplepaw.
What does this mean? Freestep asked himself.

Chapter 4

Freestep felt Amberfire's gaze burning into his pelt again, and he squirmed uncomfortably.
They were waiting for Dapplepaw and Blazepaw to meet them, and Freestep had suggested that they put the siblings through battle training together.
Amberfire had agreed, but Freestep wanted to tell her to stop acting like she was.
Dapplepaw's voice suddenly mewed, "Let's go!"
Blazepaw's lower voice added, "Reedstar says we have to be back by sunhigh. He says that there's going to be a ceremony."
Freestep nodded half-heartedly. He knew what this meant: Smokepaw was to share his den once again. Mouseclaw would once again moon over him, and he would have to deal with the cats that teased Jaggedpaw. He was enjoying being a warrior without his previous apprentice problems, and had been avoiding them every possible way.
A question occurred to him, and he leaned to Dapplepaw to ask, "How are Smokepaw and Jaggedpaw doing?"
"Fine," Dapplepaw mewed back. "I mean, they fight all the time"- a sense of dread swept over Freestep- "but they're great denmates when they're not together. I've noticed Jaggedpaw is really quiet."
Freestep nodded, lost in his thoughts. He felt Amberfire's excitement, and Dapplepaw didn't seem to be focused on Cedarpaw.
Blazepaw's mind was whirling, however. Freestep could tell that it wasn't good.
"We're here," Amberfire mewed suddenly. Freestep realized with a start that they were.
"What should we do?" Amberfire asked Freestep quietly. "I didn't think of anything."
"Has Blazepaw learned any fighting moves?" Freestep replied.
"Yes, but if Dapplepaw hasn't..."
Freestep raised his voice, aware that this conversation wasn't getting anywhere that he wanted it to. He had thought of things.
"Why don't the two of you fight?" Freestep suggested mildly. "Not with claws," he warned, "but like you would as kits. We could analyze you from that."
Blazepaw nodded eagerly but Dapplepaw looked disappointed, and Freestep knew that she had been looking forward to hunting. Freestep had expected this, and relished the fact that she was kept away from Cedarpaw.
"Begin," Freestep added.
When they hesitated, he beckoned his tail. "We don't have all day, we're supposed be be back by sunhigh, aren't we?"
Blazepaw nodded and flung himself at his sister.


After the session, where Freestep had picked up on- and shied away from- feelings from Amberfire, good fighting skills from both apprentices, and an empty stomach, he led the patrol back, not bothering to talk with any cat.
They arrived at the camp as Reedstar was calling a Clan meeting.
Freestep settled down next to Brackenheart, meaning to talk with him afterwards.
"Later, two warriors will be appointed," Reedstar began, "but closer to dusk so their vigil isn't as long."
Freestep felt obliged to poke into Jaggedpaw's mind, and felt his annoyance and disappointment.
"I would like to say that we've had no activity from ShadowClan recently," Reedstar continued. "I'm ordering you to avoid them, because one single cat managed to get in a fight with another."
As cats buzzed, Reedstar added, "No names, though."
Freestep knew who he was talking about, when Dapplepaw had departed from Cedarpaw, she had scratched her side.
"That is all for now," Reedstar finished.
"Pointless," Freestep heard Brackenstar mutter. "This is how you know a cat is getting old..."
"Brackenheart," Freestep began, "I want you to keep Dapplepaw away from the ShadowClan border."
Brackenheart tipped his head. "Why? Was she the cat in the fight?"
Freestep shrugged. "She seems very happy around it, and she looks around a lot-"
"How do you know that?"
"Her voice seems distant... anyway, she's looking for some cat, which is a bad sign."
Brackenheart nodded, understanding. "I'll keep her away as best as possible."
Freestep nodded at his father and padded away.

Chapter 5

The sun was setting, and Freestep only knew because the cats were beginning to stir around him, thinking about their nests and a possibility of late prey with a friend.
Freestep himself was looking forward to the upcoming warrior ceremony, where he had heard Jaggedpaw was getting his warrior name, along with Smokepaw.
Finally, Reedstar called the apprentices forward.
"These apprentices have trained hard, and learned the ways of the Clans," Reedstar began formally. But Freestep could read his thoughts, and he knew his leader was doubtful.
"Smokepaw, Jaggedpaw, do you promise to protect your Clan, even if it means your death?" Reedstar asked, following the ancient traditions of the Clans.
"I do," Smokepaw and Jaggedpaw chorused.
The Clan stirred. The moment was here, the moment in which the two toms would become warriors, and therefore dignified in their own special ways.
"Smokepaw," Reedstar began, "from this moment on, you will be called Smokefoot."
Smokefoot lifted his one gray foot and admired it. It had given him his name.
"Jaggedpaw, from now on, you will be known as Jaggedfang
The Clan cheered. "Smokefoot! Jaggedfang!" they called. "Smokefoot! Jaggedfang!"
The warriors didn't glance at each other happily, but they received congratulations and praise from their Clan mates.
Freestep sighed with satisfaction as he realized that he had one last night without the two bickering cats in the warriors den.
"Now," Reedstar called over the cats, "according to tradition, these two cats must sit vigil for one night and protect the camp from any intruders."
Smokefoot nodded, his eyes shining, and padded to the center of the camp.
Jaggedfang followed hesitantly, but sat a distance away from Smokefoot.
Freestep stood, extended his senses for possible trouble, and when there wasn't, he padded to the warriors den and curled up in his nest. He still preferred the one in the apprentices' den, now only occupied by Blazepaw and Dapplepaw.
He fell asleep, soothed by the excitement of his Clanmates.


Freestep was jolted awake by a pawstep outside. He could sense the quiet pawsteps better than any other cat.
He searched the thoughts of the cat outside, hoping it wasn't an intruder, and picked up on one thought so horrible, so deafening, that Freestep almost forgot to pursue the thinker.
He stood, and with astonishing quiet, began to follow them.
They slipped out of camp and Freestep followed, avoiding twigs and sticks. His senses were extended as far as possible.
Finally, the cat accidentally crashed into a bush covered in spikes- bracken- and was stuck.
"Need some help?" Freestep called.
Dapplepaw froze from where she had been pulling a spike from her tail. "N-no," she whispered.
"Okay," Freestep revealed himself, knowing his eyes were gleaming in the darkness. All the more for his apprentice's fear.
"How did you know...?"
"I'm blind, remember? I hear much better than any cat in the Clan. I have good smelling skills, too."
Dapplepaw blinked. "But I was all the way across camp!"
Freestep hissed. "It doesn't matter here. What matters is that you're going somewhere in secret."
Dapplepaw shook her head back and forth, and Freestep was worried she was trying to rattle herself. "I'm not going anywhere," Dapplepaw protested lamely. "I'm just taking a walk?"
"To Cedarpaw?" Freestep questioned.
Dapplepaw's eyes widened ever so more. "How...?"
"I heard you, mouse-brain. Clear as day."
Dapplepaw yanked herself out of the bush and ran towards ShadowClan.
Freestep didn't hesitate to follow, now at ease running through the forest.
Dapplepaw was weaving, running, leaping like a warrior, but not as fast as one.
Freestep leaped... and landed on the forest floor. Dapplepaw was fast.
He scrambled up again and ran, but by then, it was too late. She was already on the ShadowClan side.
Freestep leaped across the border and tackled her, claws sheathed.
"Get off!" Dapplepaw yowled. "You're attacking a ShadowClan cat with no reason!"
"You're ThunderClan, mouse-brain," Freestep snarled back.
Dapplepaw's eyes narrowed, but widened again.
Freestep sighed. "Come with me," he commanded.


Freestep was woken in the morning by Blazepaw's desperate call: "Dapplepaw's gone!"

Chapter 6

The warriors were up in an instant.
Freestep put on a surprised face and scrambled out of the den.
Jaggedfang and Smokefoot were trying to calm Blazepaw down, and Brackenheart was yowling about patrols.
"Freestep!" Blazepaw yowled desperately, "d'you know anything about this?"
Freestep shook his head sadly. He hated lying, but it was necessary to preserve his secret.
He had told Dapplepaw to catch some prey before journeying through ShadowClan territory. He wasn't sure how they would treat her.
Then they had come across the night patrol just as Dapplepaw was about to cross the border. Her excitement of being with Cedarpaw forever was overwhelming to Freestep.
Dapplepaw had confessed to him, because Freestep wouldn't let her go otherwise.
The night patrol had taken her in with astonished eyes. Freestep knew they were happy to get a cat in return for Jaggedfang.
"We have to get her back!" Thorntail was yowling. His panic fueled the Clan, Freestep knew, but he didn't need that in his head now.
"We'll find her," Brackenheart told him, exasperated. "Freestep, you'll lead a patrol. Er... bring Smokefoot and Thorntail with you."
Freestep nodded, beckoned to the two cats, and led them out of camp.
"Spread, stay within five fox-lengths," Freestep commanded quickly. He didn't want to be anywhere close to Smokefoot.
The warriors fanned out, Smokefoot on Freestep's left and Thorntail on his right.
Yellowfang appeared ahead of Freestep, and he was glad he could see.
"Liar," Yellowfang hissed, slowing to run beside Freestep.
"I have to protect her," Freestep replied just as quietly.
The cats ran until they reached the ShadowClan border, where Smokefoot picked up Dapplepaw's scent.
"It goes to ShadowClan territory," he hissed. "Did they steal her?"
"There's ShadowClan scent on this side, too," Thorntail added angrily.
Freestep had forgotten they had come across to scent approaching ThunderClan cats better, thinking it was a trick.
"She must have gone quite deliberately," Thorntail speculated, staring into the trees on the other side of the border. "But what could be there that isn't here?" His eyes were wide and fearful.
"A friendly cat?" Freestep suggested halfheartedly.
Thorntail looked at Freestep. "You really think she went to ShadowClan to meet a cat?"
"She could have..."
Smokefoot hissed. "That's mousedung."
"We have to tell the Clan..." Thorntail mumbled.
"I will," Freestep sighed. "She's my apprentice, I'm responsible for her."
"Not when you're asleep," Thorntail protested.
Freestep just lowered his head. "Let's just go back."
Smokefoot and Thorntail nodded.
Freestep led the way.

Chapter 7

Halfway back, Smokefoot pushed past Freestep with a shove. "Move, slowpoke," he muttered.
Freestep stumbled to the side, eyes wide. "Watch it, Smokefoot," he growled, trying to gain control. "I'm the leader of this patrol, you know that."
Smokefoot shrugged. "Well, now I am."
Freestep hissed. "Fine. Just don't be rude about it."
Smokefoot just nodded and sped up the pace.
Freestep fell back to walk with Thorntail, whose fury made Freestep wonder if he had done the right thing.
"I know what you're thinking," Thorntail muttered. "And you didn't do the right thing, Freestep, you can't let that cat bully you."
Freestep kept his eyes focused straight forward, although he couldn't see anything.
"Regain control," Thorntail hissed. "And that's an order."
Freestep gritted his teeth and sped up. "That's enough," he called to Smokefoot. "I need to give Reedstar the report."
He felt Thorntail flinch behind him.
Smokefoot stopped short, and Freestep dodged to the side, padding to the front of the trio.
He felt Smokefoot preparing to attack. Freestep tensed, waiting for Smokefoot to leap on his shoulders.
Smokefoot landed squarely on Freestep's back, and, reacting quickly, Freestep flipped over so he had the power. Smokefoot hissed as Freestep flipped and clawed Smokefoot anywhere- this was the advantage of being a blind cat in a fight.
Smokefoot retaliated with quick blows, claws unsheathed, to Freestep's belly, causing Freestep to collapse, moaning in pain.
That made it easier for Smokefoot to grab Freestep with his claws and fling him away.
Freestep landed, sensing that Thorntail was astonished and frozen with fear. He muttered, "Figures that I have to do this on my own." He forced himself up and flung himself at the other, more aggressive, warrior.
Smokefoot took the blow in his haunches, probably as he had been trained, and reversed the force to make Freestep fall into the dust.
Freestep yowled in surprise and scrambled up again, panting. He was aware of the scratches on his belly, and they hurt, but he needed to do this.
He leaped at Smokefoot one last time, focusing his mind on killing this cat once and for all, but something was in the way, something with strength enough to force two full-grown warriors apart.
Thorntail stood, glaring at the two cats. But instead of scolding them, he muttered, "Let's get back to camp."
Smokefoot ignored him. "I-will-kill-you!" he screeched.
Freestep knew exactly who he was talking about.
Thorntail gasped and stumbled, and Freestep guessed that he had never seen anything like this before.
One thought occurred to him, which was, I need to know this prophecy.
"Let's get back to camp," he commanded the patrol, and he led the way back.


"Freestep!" Reedstar called. "Report?"
Freestep loyally padded to his leader and nodded. "We scented her."
"Where?"
"Near the ShadowClan border. We couldn't go any further, because her scent trailed into ShadowClan territory."
Reedstar gasped. "No..."
Freestep nodded quietly. "If you excuse me, I need to ask Ravenheart something."
Reedstar nodded, lost in thought.
Freestep stood, padded to the medicine den, and found Ravenheart already in the entrance.
"I know what you're here for," Ravenheart mewed simply. "The prophecy is ready to be revealed."

Chapter 8

Ravenheart led Freestep into his den, and Freestep remembered when Ravenheart still hadn't known about his ability to see through his paws.
"Sit," Ravenheart commanded. "I see you have scratches."
Freestep nodded, and waited while Ravenheart got the necessary herbs to treat Freestep.
"How'd you get them?" Ravenheart asked. Freestep knew he knew, but he thought that Ravenheart was waiting for confirmation.
"Smokefoot attacked me," Freestep said shortly.
Ravenheart was concerned, but Freestep didn't linger on that. "You know the prophecy," he declared. "I need to know it- Smokefoot declared he would kill me in front of Thorntail."
Ravenheart's eyes widened. "No...?"
"Yes. What is the prophecy?" Freestep demanded again.
Ravenheart sighed. "Not now, Freestep, you've got wounds to heal."
"Stop stalling," Freestep moaned. "It's my destiny, not yours."
Ravenheart stopped in the middle of applying a poultice to a wound. "Fine."
Relief and worry surged through Freestep. What if he was destined to die? What if he was destined to beat this cat once again?
"My mentor came to me the night you were born," Ravenheart mumbled. "He came in a vision, and then in a dream."
Freestep nodded.
"He told me, and these are his words, that your destiny is confusing, and that he couldn't see it, probably due to your lack of vision."
Freestep felt anger surge through him. "Really?" he snapped. "He can't see because I can't?"
Ravenheart just shrugged. "I dunno. Can I tell you the prophecy now, or are you just going to argue with me?"
Freestep felt his fur grow hot. "Sorry."
Ravenheart cleared his throat. "Freedom will be choked by smoke, and the fires of fighting will be put out."
Freestep didn't speak. He know who Freedom and smoke were, but... the fire? He knew no cat that had fire in their name.
"That's all he told me," Ravenheart muttered.
Freestep nodded, lost in thought.
Ravenheart nodded. "You can go now, come back later," he mewed.
Freestep nodded and gratefully left the den.
The first thing he sensed were two warriors across the camp.
Freestep's vision opened and he saw Mouseclaw and Smokefoot sitting close together, tails flicking happily and contentedly. A pleasant feeling was coming from his sister, but Smokefoot's were masked by the yowl behind Freestep.
He spun as a scent hit his nose.
"ShadowClan's attacking!" he yowled.
The warriors snapped to attention as Tigerstar burst through the tunnel.
Oh, they were going down.

Chapter 9

"Dear StarClan!" Freestep yowled.
Freestep's vision opened, but he saw no sign of Yellowfang or Nightstar. But that was okay: he could fight on his own now.
He felt a weight and collapsed beneath it; Weedfur had tackled him, digging his claws into his fur.
Freestep gasped and kicked outward, and that pushed Weedfur off long enough for Freestep to stand up.
Weedfur jumped onto Freestep again, but Freestep was ready. Freestep let himself be tackled, but flipped himself over as quickly as possible. He now had the advantage.
As Weedfur delivered a heavy blow to Freestep's muzzle, Freestep glimpsed Dapplepaw leap on Blazepaw. The two siblings grappled, but Blazepaw came out on top.
Freestep delivered quick blows to Weedfur's muzzle and face.
Weedfur cried out in obvious pain and kicked out, sending Freestep flying. He quickly regained himself and jumped again, absentmindedly pummeling the ShadowClan tom.
A yowl of pain sounded across the camp, and Freestep saw Reedstar squirming around as Tigerstar stood triumphantly over him.
Reedstar's motions stopped, and Freestep wondered if he was dead for good or loosing a life.
Weedfur suddenly got the advantage over Freestep. Freestep twisted from beneath the brown warrior and stumbled away, exhaustion settling over him. But he couldn't stop, he had to beat this cat...
"Tired, little apprentice?" Weedfur taunted.
"I'm a warrior now, thanks," Freestep shot back.
"Any friends to help you out?" Weedfur taunted again. "No, because you're blind."
Freestep looked around the fighting cats and didn't see any sign of Jaggedfang.
Weedfur snarled and bared his teeth at Freestep, and Freestep backed away, intending to put the ShadowClan warrior out of range.
Weedfur took a big step forward and leaped; he was flying, and Freestep was knocked down by the full force of this cat.
He struggled to land a blow. Weedfur was clawing his belly and his flanks, and once his neck.
"Stop," Freestep whispered hoarsely, pleading. "You win, Weedfur, you win."
Weedfur just spat and turned away. He bounded towards two more struggling cats, leaving Freestep alone and gasping for breath.
Staring after the gray ShadowClan warrior, he thought- of all things- about the prophecy.
Weedfur ripped a cat off of Brackenheart, who stood up instantly.
Freestep gasped. "No," he whispered.
Weedfur leaped on Brackenheart, pinning him down easily. Freestep could tell how exhausted his father was.
Weedfur glared across the camp to Freestep, who began to run towards the pair in a desperate attempt to save the deputy.
Weedfur just sneered, clawed at Brackenheart's neck, and ran away.
Freestep saw his father go limp, and Tigerstar looked at the deputy, too, and called retreat.

Chapter 10

The Clan sat in shocked silence.
Freestep's vision still worked, but he didn't want it to. The body of his father seemed to hang in the center of his vision.
Reedstar was in his den, recovering from his loss of a life and probably thinking about who the new deputy would be. Freestep had a faint idea, but he wasn't sure how it was going to play out.
He heard a rustle in the tunnel, and his fur fluffed up.
"Help," a tiny voice called.
The ThunderClan scent hit Freestep's nose as Jaggedfang stumbled in, blood trailing behind him and covering his fur.
The Clan gasped, and Jaggedfang collapsed. Ravenheart ran to his den.
The kits watched fearfully from the nursery as Amberfire dragged Jaggedfang to the medicine den.
The Clan sat in shocked silence once more, and Freestep looked to the sky. The moon was high: it was Reedstar's time to tell who the new deputy was.
Amberfire came back just as Reedstar creeped out of his den on top of the Highledge.
Freestep shivered in the cold night air. Greenleaf may have been approaching, but the nights were still bitterly cold.
"It's moonhigh," Reedstar mewed. "It's time to announce the new deputy."
The Clan was silent in anticipation. Freestep was beginning to have second thoughts about his prediction.
"I say these words before Brackenheart, so that his spirit may hear and approve my choice," Reedstar announced. The cats beneath him stirred impatiently, waiting for the name that would follow.
"Freestep is the new deputy of ThunderClan," Reedstar announced.
Smokefoot's indignant yowl sounded behind Freestep. "No!"
Amberfire nudged Freestep's shoulder, but worry was radiating from her. Freestep didn't care.
Thorntail purred and nuzzled Freestep's flank.
Freestep jumped up the Highledge and sat next to his leader. Pride flowed through his blood, he could feel it.
Now the prophecy had to be fulfilled.
And as the realization dawned on him, he realized that, now, there was no turning back.


Freestep watched as the cat he loved jumped on a mouse and killed it.
He would do anything for her.
He treasured memories of her. He wanted to help her make the right choices, but he couldn't do that without revealing the prophecy.
He watched as a shadow loomed, as big as the sky itself, over her. It covered her fur, and she didn't notice. To her, it was a cloud blocking the sun.
Fires began to burn. Still, the she-cat didn't notice. She was focused on a squirrel beneath a leaf.
At the same time, rain poured down and a single claw fell from the sky.
The she-cat cried out as the claw pierced her, and her eyes clouded as the fires went out.
An evil hiss sounded from somewhere in front of Freestep.
Freestep's eyes flew open to darkness, and he gasped for breath as he ran out to the clearing.
He knew who the fire was.

Be sure to look out for Fighting for Freedom, the final book in the Standards series!   Forestheart   talk    blog    email  

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